“Citizenship is a Fight for Women’s Independent Existence”
With the ongoing discussions concerning citizenship provisions in the draft constitution, Ramesh Prasad Timalsina collected views of leaders of political parties and women rights activist regarding ‘Citizenship in the name of mother’. Excerpts:
Khim Lal Devkota, UCPN-M Leader
Citizenship is directly linked with nationality. This issue has been put forward with a view that we must be very serious and strict regarding citizenship. Discussions have been held with the perspective that nationality will be diminished if we are flexible on this issue. When we held discussions through the Party Cooperation Mechanism to find out the crux of this matter, we did not find such views to be true. It is not that being strict or loose on issue of citizenship weakens or strengthens nationality.
No Nepali people should be deprived of citizenship. Women must be given a right of patrimony and patronym. Let us implement the policy of non-discrimination between boy and girl in citizenship as well. The first citizenship act is “Citizenship Act 1952”. In this act, there is a provision of getting citizenship in the name of father or mother. After that, the constitution of 1962 has also provision of getting citizenship in the name of father or mother. The constitution of 1990 stated father and mother requiring father mandatory while getting citizenship. This means that one is entitled to citizenship only if his/her father is a Nepali citizen at the time of his birth. It does not talk about the nationality of mother. That is why the journey of citizenship has been regressive since 1990. The Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007 has also stated “Father or Mother” ; however its implementation has been dominated by the mentality of 1990 constitution. So, if we could move forward by amending the provision in constitution of 1990, an environment of issuing citizenship in the name of either mother or father can be created. It is necessary to move forward in this direction in the coming days.
Sapana Malla Pradhan, Senior Advocate
Citizenship is a fight for identity. It is also a fight women’s independent existence. Women are also a citizen and they are eligible for equal rights as citizens. Previously, only women fought for their right but now men are also with them. Women’s father, husband and son are with them in this fight. Men are in front-line to end discrimination in citizenship. None of the human rights document in the world has accepted the rule and behavior of inequality. All of them have followed the principle of equality. We are in third phase in the campaign of human rights movement. While reaching this phase, numbers of human rights laws have developed. The nationality is the right of every individual and the right to nationality has been recognized worldwide. Now it has also been recognized that the state must adopt the policy of non-discrimination and not accept statelessness. The guarantee of child and women rights has also been accepted. The European Convention of 1997 has clearly stated that the state should not discriminate its people on the basis of naturalized and citizenship by descent. We talk about making democratic constitution but at the same time we are making undemocratic drafts. We want an progressive policy. These are our present challenges. We are making a new constitution and at the same time we are trying to be strict in citizenship issue. This will take us in opposite direction. If we want to choose the way of progression, we need to adopt the policy of non-discrimination. There should not be discrimination in citizenship. The means to get citizenship either in the name of mother or father must be made easy.
Jitendra Sonar, TMLP Leader
The constitution that we have envisaged is non-discriminatory. Not only in case of citizenship, but in any sector there should not be any discrimination. The discrimination in a sensitive issue like citizenship is absolutely unacceptable especially when we are envisaging a state and society without discrimination. Citizenship is not only to be a citizen, it is necessary to be born, to get married, to get opportunity and even to die. If we are not sensitive on this issue, this may show that we are enforcing instead of stopping discrimination. That is why, the process of getting citizenship must be made easily accessible. For this, instead of word “father and mother”, “father or mother” will play a crucial role. At first, I would like to say that the word “and” must be replaced with “or”. The word ‘or” will solve the problem. The second thing is mentality. The mentality may spoil the process even though the policy is effective. That is why it is necessary that the mentality of state must change. In Terai region, women (mother) normally do not care about citizenship. They feel the importance of citizenship only to achieve elderly allowance after reaching the age of 65. Otherwise they do not feel the importance of citizenship. The new law must have provision to give citizenship either in the name of mother or father. It is the responsibility of all political parties and leaders to provide citizenship to a eligible Nepali.
Pushpa Bhusal, Nepal Congress Leader
The provision of “Manusmriti” makes woman dependable on others. As soon as she is born, she is sheltered by her father, after marriage she is being taken care by her husband and in an elderly stage she is made dependent on her son. The issue of giving citizenship to one’s children in the name of the mother is motivated by this. Giving citizenship in the name of father or mother was in practice since 60 years. This has not affected the issue of nationality. It is useless to link the issue of citizenship with nationality and intellectuals should not follow such rumors. Democracy in the 21st century does not accept discrimination. In my opinion, citizenship by descent is the right of a citizen. Naturalized citizenship is the responsibility of the state. The new constitution must not have discriminatory provisions in order to adopt principle of equality in the democratic, republic constitution by ending the past discriminations. The discrimination must end, be it in citizenship by descent or in naturalized citizenship. We must maintain equality according to the UDHR and international laws regarding women rights. We do not have any rights to make law against them.
A version of this View Point appeared in the August, 2015 edition of INFORMAL
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